PETER PAN & WENDY. The Unbearable Weight of Growing Up [REVIEW]
Some characters from the world of popular culture return to the screens with a great frequency. Dracula, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes – it’s hard to count the film and TV incarnations of these popular characters, even those created in the current century. Peter Pan may not be such a frequent visitor to the screens, but he lived to see almost a dozen productions on his subject, including, of course, the classic Disney animation from 1953 or the recent Pan by Joe Wright. This time, the character of the eternal boy was taken by David Lowery, and you could blindly bet that Peter Pan & Wendy would be a darker version of the story of this hero. It is indeed.
David Lowery is a rather unusual filmmaker, creating his works outside the mainstream of popular cinema, but able to reach every viewer. With titles as original as A Ghost Story (2017) or The Green Knight (2021), he seemed a very interesting candidate to direct the latest adaptation of the adventures of Peter Pan. And from the first shots you can feel that it was a good choice – Lowery is not afraid to go crazy with the camera and in the opening scene of the play in the room of Wendy (Ever Anderson), John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) Darling, the director gives the image an extremely dynamic character. And although we will have to wait a few moments for the appearance of Peter Pan, the atmosphere of adventure settles in Lowery’s film very quickly. But this is only one side of the coin – along with the subsequent adventures of the characters, the film’s psychological motifs resonate more and more. Peter Pan & Wendy more strongly than any of the previous productions about the eternal boy emphasizes the fear of adulthood and the fear of leaving the child’s comfort zone. Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) is here an avatar of modern thirty-year-olds, millennials often unable to become independent and take responsibility for their lives.
Peter Pan & Wendy is a work that is closer to those darker film fairy tales, such as A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Golden Compass, than to the Disney canon. There may not be too many scary monsters here – the crocodile stalking Captain Hook (Jude Law) appears only for a moment, although it looks menacing! – but there is a lot of human darkness, sitting somewhere deep in the form of regret, bitterness and remorse. The character of Captain Hook, which is most often a source of humor and grotesque in Peter Pan’s adaptations, has an extraordinary dramaturgy here, which means that Jude Law doesn’t even have to try hard to be the brightest star of Lowery’s film. Much more than you might expect, Peter Pan and Wendy explores the relationship between Hook and his archenemy, who in turn are more dependent on each other than they would like. This may not be anything particularly revolutionary compared to the previous film adaptations of Peter’s adventures, but Lowery’s emotional themes resonate extremely authentically.
It is a pity that in a film about boys who love adventures, there is the least … adventure. Peter Pan and Wendy is not completely devoid of adventure scenes, and some of them – such as the entire final sequence on the ship – are dynamic and well-executed, but Lowery’s adventure is filtered, as if diluted by his sensitivity. To a large extent, this is also due to the lack of charisma of the lead actor – with all due respect to the young Alexander Molony, Peter Pan & Wendy suffers from the same affliction that Joe Wright’s film suffered from because of Levi Miller. The adaptation of the adventures of Peter Pan that is missing … Peter Pan? It could not succeed, and despite David Lowery’s noticeable efforts, his film will not become a classic of family cinema. This is just another “live action Disney”, to which viewers will return much less often than to the animated original.